The Life and Times of Istanbul series is about the cultural programmes, artist and designers in the transforming city. Read Part 1 here.
Working with space and sound, Cevdet Erek is an important figure in the cultural scene of Istanbul, not least for being the artist behind this year’s Turkey pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale.
His latest album “Davul” is not an exception. An experienced drummer, Erek presents a fresh and distinctly personal interpretation of the local instrument. A traditional drum, well-known in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the davul has the potential of being annoyingly loud and sounding completely arbitrary. Besides celebrations, it is still used as a public wake-up alarm, played throughout the streets. Yet the outcome of Erek’s two-day recording is contrarily silent, almost ritualistic.
At the Venice Art Biennale, Erek presented a site-specific architectural intervention with 35-channel sound installation. Also drawing on his predilection for percussion, the work is titled ÇIN, a Turkish onomatopoeia akin to ‘ding’ in English, and also the root of the Turkish words for reverberation and tinnitus. The work is a representation history, everyday life and nature, and as the visitor walks around the work, the soundscape and the architecture both activate different temporal and bodily memories and create new ones. The catalogue explains::
“A gap is left open between the doors along the two long sidewalls of the pavilion for viewers to pass through. Sources of times and signals that will reverberate in the entire space are installed on top of a platform constructed above this transit zone. On the platform there is a permeable inner façade from which will emanate ornamentations made of sound. The platform can be accessed via steps or ramps. Sampled architectural elements will enter into the space with their bodily memories. The direction and speed of the movement routes of the bodies in this space are loose, and conducive to loops.”
Regardless of the medium, however, the aesthetic of Erek's work renders it timeless and placeless, while still remaining strong representations of the contemporary dynamics of Istanbul and the larger geographical context. Perhaps this combination of the universal and specific is what makes the overall experience as captivating as it is.